Tag Archives: Sinop

“on a Mulberry tree”

as carefree as a bumble bee
i climb up the branches like one of the boys
we don’t have any of this in the city, you see
here, in Sinop, i know that i can be me, just me!

my new-found friends show me how to collect
those delicious looking dark red edibles
it is fun! So much fun! But i still hesitate
because i can’t forget how a tiny little bee
had given me a whale-size lump on my cheek
back home in Ankara, you see
from inside a paper bag, wrapped sneakily
disguised as seeded grapes,
as dark red as can be
the most favorite fruit of my sweet Baba
i learned how to put the Mulberries together
i learned all that in a short time and just fine
but i want to, no i just have to
make absolutely sure
that these cloth bags know how to protect . . .

(c) hülya n. yılmaz, 8.8.2019

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“our ties to home”

The video below shows Elzara Batalova , of Crimean Tatar background, singing “Ey Güzel Qırım” (“Oh, You Beautiful Crimea”), a ballad in one of the many Turkic languages :

Hers is a song of nostalgia, of the passionate longing for home, as the following refrain – one of several – articulates:

I haven’t lived in this place

Haven’t been able to realize my old age

Have been yearning for home

Oh, you beautiful Crimea

I don’t know how many of you have been born outside the United States, neither do I have any insight into whether you miss your birthplace – no matter where it is.  As some or maybe all of you already know (About), I was born and raised in Turkey and lived there until the age of twenty-four.  Although, my move to North America is not about a migrant’s story, an opinion page in New York Times on immigrants and the overall global trend to leave home recently got my attention.  Unlike some other articles I had encountered over the thirty-six years I lived and worked in the States, the treatment of this issue by Dr. Susan J. Matt , a professor of history at Weber State University – and the author of Homesickness: An American History , is psychology-based.  The facts, figures and statistics, I will leave behind.  Should the topic appeal to your interest, you can easily locate the source (in my blog roll).

Based on her “nearly a decade’s research” on the subject, Prof. Matt first informs us in “The New Globalist Is Homesick” as follows: “The global desire to leave home arises from poverty and necessity, but it also grows out of a conviction that such mobility is possible.”  She then adds that “it also has high psychological costs” and that “many people who leave home in search of better prospects end up feeling displaced and depressed.”  Foremost important to me on a personal level is what she states next: “Few speak openly of the substantial pain of leaving home.”  We learn from her article how in the 19th century “[s]tories of the devastating effects of homesickness were common [… (e.g.] ‘Victim of Nostalgia: A Priest Dies Craving for a Sight of his Motherland.”)  What the article highlights next is, to me, a first-time fact:    “Today, explicit discussions of homesickness are rare, for the emotion is typically regarded as an embarrassing impediment to individual progress and prosperity.  This silence makes mobility appear deceptively easy.”

Here, I invite us to pause briefly in order to get into my head, approximately three decades ago: At a time, when I was craving to be back home.  My mother was the main reason for my longing, along with my youth love I had left behind.  With the exception of my letters to her and a few jotted notes, I, too, had kept my silence about the deeply rooted ache I used to feel. With my mother’s death, my letters also vanished. As for those scattered notes, I may eventually find them during another move, whenever that may happen.  Imagine now, if you please, my conditions to leave my home country as opposed to those Matt analysed: There was no necessity for me to leave my home country.  I left to pursuit my passion to further my studies.  Poverty was not an issue, either.  Still, during my first years here, I experienced feelings of immense loss.

“Technology also seduces us into thinking that migration is painless [,]” writes Matt and argues: If today’s ways of rapid communication “could truly vanquish homesickness and make us citizens of the world, Skype, Facebook, cellphones and e-mail would have cured a pain that has been around since ‘The Odyssey’.”  She also announces: “Homesickness continued to plague many who migrated.”  Her argument finds support in her own research of the Archives of General Psychiatry, regarding, for instance, the “rates of depression and anxiety” among “Mexican immigrants in the United States” being “40 percent higher than nonmigrant relatives remaining in Mexico.  A wealth of studies have documented that other newcomers to America also suffer from high rates of depression and ‘acculturative stress’.”  Matt ends her findings by stressing how limited “the cosmopolitan philosophy” is: “The idea that we can and should feel at home anyplace on the globe is based on a worldview that celebrates the solitary, mobile individual and envisions men and women as easily separated from family, from home and from the past. But this vision doesn’t square with our emotions, for our ties to home, although often underestimated, are strong and enduring.”

On a personal level, I admit to a realization at this stage in my life how strong and enduring my ties to home have, in fact, been.  When I say home, it is not even my birthplace I speak of.  It is, rather, that of my mother and of seven generations on her family side. When the name alone comes up – Sinop, the small harbor town that housed Diogenes, I face the oddest phenomenon of my entire life so far: A primal urge to be there.  Since I can’t, I have scenario-rich dreams about it; I composed one, to me one of my most illustrious and longest but also most meaningful poems for it; I lived the most exhilarating three-and-a-half months of my life in it; I mourned and continue to mourn the loss of my mother’s inheritance from it.  I have even gone to such extent to add to my living will for my ashes to be spread to its sea.

I believe to no longer underestimate my ties to home – the way I had been for long , neither do I undermine the fact how strong and enduring that connection can be.  As if our umbilical cord is still attached not only to our mothers but to our birthplaces at large as well.

I now end here with the hope that you will come back, perhaps even with your own story of leaving home, or, just because.  Before I do, however, I want to give you “Sinop Aşkı” (“Love of/for Sinop”), a short video (4:37) with still  images of the town, accompanied by modern Turkish Folk music.  The second video is a longer and live introductory piece in English (25:16).  We have started with a music piece.  Why not end on one.

I very much look forward to your next visit.

 

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Autobiographical Fiction, “Huban” – Part 3

Another picture: goodbye Afyon, welcome Sinop!  Goodbye black and white photographs, hello color!  My aunt (my father’s only sister, who could have used some physical features of her oldest brother) still underneath her head and shoulder cover as in the Afyon photograph, was looking up with eyes half-closed.  She was sitting next to my mom who had my newborn brother in her arms.  Several photos later, though, my aunt’s hair was in full sight, her face was a canvas for color-rich make-up and she was clad in a notably fabric-shy dress.  Sinop, however, was a tiny town!  “How come my aunt shed her head-and shoulder cover?” I asked my father the minute I got a chance.

“Well, Huban, the Turkish sea towns have always been different in many aspects.  Afyon is what it is: a place right in the heart of the rugged Anatolian land.  If my family had lived in southern Turkey, or at the Aegean coast, they would have dressed like those in Sinop.  That’s how populations adopted to the different landscapes of our country.  But in all honesty, I must tell you how I always coveted to be like the Sinopians: very comfortable with their way of life and what their women and men wear.  Afyon was never accepting to any variety in clothing for women.  So, when your aunt came to live with us, she didn’t know anything beyond what was there in Afyon to see and to do; she hadn’t seen anything beyond her birthplace.  Unlike me.  I lived and worked in Istanbul.  You know that.  I changed quite a lot after my life in the big city.  Especially, after meeting your mom, long before we were married, during our long waiting period.  Living with your mom changed your aunt also.  She opened up.  By the way, did you know your mom made her that summer dress?”

“Why?”

“She wanted my sister to keep up with the times.”

“I had no idea she could do that!”

“She could and did.  However, she wouldn’t even put it on at first.  Then, a couple of days later she wanted to try it on, only in her room and only to show your mom.  After a while, she wore it all the time!”

“What about your parents, Dad, and your brothers?  Weren’t they mad about how different she began to look?”

“Oh yes, they were all upset to get such pictures of your aunt.  But you see, as the only college graduate in my family, everyone always respected me very much, in what I did and was doing.  In any situation, for that matter.  So, they let your mom and me be; and let your aunt dress and live like the Sinopians.  You know your grandmother and all her female cousins were wearing skimpy bathing suits whenever they went on a boat ride with boys?  Not only your mother but her grandmother before her as well?  And this, not only as children but also as teens and beyond?  The locals have a saying: Sinop is the best place in Turkey for a woman to live in peace and full safety.  I am happy and proud my only sister was also able to learn modernity from us and this town.”

Since the subject had just come to my mom’s sewing skills–one among her numerous other talents-my father said: “In summer, when you have no classes, you should learn how to saw, to knit, to cook and to bake from your mom.  Like your mom.”  A proper upbringing must also mean to have sawing, knitting, cooking and baking abilities, I had concluded back then and wondered what my father’s advice was for my brother.  Didn’t Tamo deserve a proper upbringing?

My brother…With his birth weight of close to ten pounds, his simply beautiful, unwrinkled and white face, cute little nose –almost a duplicate of my mom’s, fully developed body –unlike my premature one, and gorgeously bald head (yes, baldness in babies was a must attraction back then, I was told many times), I was no contest for this darling creature who arrived here three years ahead of me.  At some point in my early years–but only after I had safely grown out of my ugly, hideous, hairy and skinny birth-shell, had my father confessed how my mother first greeted me in an almost muted utterance: “Oh, my unfortunate girl!”

I always concluded her reaction was about the obvious difference between Tamo’s beauty and my intense ugliness.  My father, though, would not say much on this matter.  Every time the subject of my birth came up, he was overcome with sadness for his wife and for his mother-in-law whom he had dearly loved and respected.  I, too, was overcome by sadness: my grandmother–only 48 years old–was at her deathbed with ovarian cancer at the onset of my mom’s pregnancy with me.  There had been too many records of deaths by this type of cancer on my mother’s side.  Still, she could not have ever imagined her own mother as a victim to this disease.  She could not talk with us about those days without stopping in the middle of her first sentence, not being able to collect herself to go on beyond.  She must have been traumatized by severe sadness, fearing her mother’s fate would also be mine–or her own, as it turned out to be.  This morbid sentence had struck her three female cousins around the same age as my grandmother.  I would have to eventually encounter the tremendous loss of my mother–she must have concluded, an ordeal she herself was facing when she was supposed to feel elated for expecting a new life.  In the way she must have felt while she was pregnant with my brother.

Ach, Tamo…

My brother’s favorite pass-time activity was to make fun of me about the type of novels I read (not very different than what I later found out to be our mother’s all-time favorite–pre-dating my birth).  It didn’t matter to him whether my choices were translations of the world classics, or the work of our own classical literary greats.  Sometimes he would almost scold me, announcing my disappointment would be of tragic dimensions if I kept dreaming up life’s realities under the influence of those “ridiculous stories,” as he called them again and again to my face.

I am no longer in contact with my brother and haven’t been for a long while.  If I had been, I would have told him in what striking ways my life events mirrored and continue to mirror those “ridiculous stories” he persistently frowned upon.  Moreover, I would have let him in on one most vital fact about me, one for which his most imaginative moment won’t suffice.  What a surreal extent our mother’s affection for and sorrow over the fate of the protagonist in her most favorite novel did and continue to intertwine with his sister’s–the life of his one and only sibling…

(Only this essay stops here.  As for Huban’s tale, it will continue.)

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Sinop (General pictures)

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Sinop (Pictures from my flat)

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Sinopem (on WritersCafe.org)

[The photograph is posted here with appreciation and due credit to http://www.facebook.com/SinopKuzeyYildizi%5D

the homeland enters the main vein

her incomparable scent penetrates each body cell

 

one stunning aroma after another

thirsting for her, beyond any measure

in hunger pangs

captive in intense longing

 

etched in permanence into memory

my childhood in many of her spaces

carefree years of my youth

the magic of my early adulthood

unrivaled,

in the flesh and the blood,

distant memories,

reappearing as experiences

 

one corner of homeland

distinctive delight

an all-embracing town,

in unison with the sea

unlocks the long forgotten.

 

There, where it stretches out

onto the cheery harbor

main street peeks into ancient-old tea gardens

and more sea hugs the salt factory:

Right there, Divan café,

as alert as ever before, eyeing the old prison of the inner bay

not bothered by its maturing bent

sated with ancient echoes from devouring local specialties

on a mouth-watering decorative plate

by my childhood eyes and arousing sighs

a huge piece of revani –befitting my sweet-tooth-fame,

topped with ice cream –vanilla beans,

delighting generation after generation after generation

eight in total, the loved ones of mine

 

farther away lies the artery of the town

extending the slender path to Ada, the famed island

a ribbon bouquet in an April 23rd  parade

Çocuk Bayramı, Children’s Festival

flowing, in sync with streets so open, alleys so hidden

sweeping from each home

a memory of mine

making one anew

 

my eyes locked on the path to Ada again

the town’s highest peak

one short look away to the left and the right

the sea struts its clear blue wealth and might, unabashed

like the beauty of the town’s women, young and old

 

and there,

a breath away

there, right before me

with its mysteries of my childhood

that spectacular house

 

its paint ashen hue

wooden bricks, all worn-out

still standing high in aging humility

vies to breathe a little longer

its decades-old glances down upon the sea,

a tenderness on the soil, of a new mother’s hands

on which its roots are spread, soon to finally rest

ornate windows reaching toward the immense blue of the sky

Alas! Dear beings of mine

no longer there to warm its insides

 

on the entry steps

my mother

ever so young

ever so pretty

cheerful, too

my heart then wanders on to the captive past

a child of very young years on the faded print

her father arrives from work

through one of the colossal front windows

seated next to her mother:

a briefcase in one hand

on his head a wide-brimmed fedora

flattering to his stately height;

the child glued to his leg

a very dear soul of mine

my grandmother, however, remains in the dark

I cannot pick her out  – have never known her

for all but one photograph

my mom next to her, her face, in the light

but, the baby on her lap

that must be the other dear being of mine

the one beloved soul in whom none of us could take much delight,

stricken by a fatal disease

bid farewell ever so young

 

next to me

the unique scent of my mother

the warmest warmth of her heart

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Sinop (Sinope)

Sinop has always transformed my psyche, taking my innermost self to a place of peace.  Its thought alone from a several-days distance where I live now quiets any turmoil I may feel trapped in at any given time.  Regardless of the “hell on earth” I lived there a short few years ago.  My memory – in harmony with my power of imagination, takes me back to the eight-story apartment building where my flat was.  I haven’t been back since the sale of my home in that land of the sea and the sun.  Yet, I often transit myself out of my bedroom onto the long hallway with a direct passage into my living room overlooking the sea, the Turkish Black Sea, to be exact.  I take in the spectacular view, breathe in freedom and begin my imaginary dance that the sound of the waves accompany.  My kitchen adjacent to my living room waits for me to wake up the various aromatic nuances a region-specific breakfast will lend it soon. Then again, hunger doesn’t visit me that early in the morning.  All of this happens in the memory, after all.  Before the locals get on to their daily routines, I sneak in a walk alongside the sea, all the way to the heart of the picturesque town.  I can almost see my shadow.  I had wished desperately to stay there for years to come.  So I believe to have left my shadow there instead.  I can almost spot my spirit still walking on high heels on the bumpy and hole-rich sidewalks up to and in the “Town Square.”  Selecting fresh fruit and vegetables from each stop, I am gliding in and out of stores and cafes, taking in -with an utterly overwhelmed psyche- everything that my senses can conceive of.  Feeling elated all the time.  Bursting with a yet unmet happiness.  My entire being shouting: freedom!

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